Media | Oops

May 10, 2005

Corrections 5/2-5/9

Getting by with a little help, breakfast in bed, the divorce that wasn't, and other enlightening and entertaining media corrections.

Carl Bialik

Every week, Gelf combs through media corrections for the funniest and most enlightening. Sometimes journalism reveals more in its mishaps than in its success. Gelf makes mistakes, too, and when we do, we'll disclose them here.

The text in italics is Gelf's; everything else is a direct quote from the publication.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

USA Today, May 5: "An article written by USA TODAY staff writer Tom Squitieri and published on March 28, 2005, included quotes taken from The Indianapolis Star that were not attributed to the newspaper. Statements made by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Brian Hart, of Bedford, Mass., first appeared in a May 7, 2004, article on armored Humvees by Ted Evanoff of The Indianapolis Star. USA TODAY and The Indianapolis Star are both Gannett newspapers. Squitieri's actions violated USA TODAY's standards on sources and attribution. USA TODAY apologizes to its readers. Squitieri has apologized and resigned."
In a Washington Post article, Squitieri's lawyer said his client "said his client spoke to all the sources or their spokesmen, even though he ended up using the old quotes." USA Today's editor called that "an interesting defense." Also noteworthy: Early drafts of six other Squitieri stories contained quotes lifted from other publications that were removed during editing.
Meanwhile, Brian Hart suggested that USA Today overreacted in pressuring its reporter to resign, in a post on Romenesko. Hart asked, "Is accuracy or attribution more important?" and added, "Of the many times I've been misquoted by reporters, not once has an editor volunteered to fire the reporter. Yet here is a quote I endorsed which evidently has gotten a reporter fired because he didn't attribute it to a reporter I also worked with at a sister publication of his! Madness."

Newsday, May 4: The comments of John Mason, fiance of the bride who got cold feet before their wedding in Georgia, were made on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" show. The source was omitted in a story in yesterday's Newsday.

New York Times, May 7: The "Lost and Found New York" Op-Art on April 23, about the Chrysler Building, omitted a source. Some material came from "Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Building of a City," by Neal Bascomb.

'Cause We Got High

San Francisco Chronicle, May 6: A Thursday story misstated the annual budget of the Marijuana Policy Project. The correct figure is $2.5 million to $3 million.
The original article depicted a powerhouse lobby with a $2.5 billion budget.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 6: An April 25th story about the federal government's ability to seize the records of San Francisco's marijuana clubs included a quotation that implied a West Hollywood cannabis club was raided by federal agents in 2001 because of its open-books policy. All of the club's financial records were seized in the raid, but the club was targeted because of its size, not its record-keeping.

Thanks for the Free Campaign Ad

Los Angeles Times, May 5: A biographical note in a commentary Tuesday about Latinos in politics described the author, Fernando J. Guerra, as director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles and an associate professor at Loyola Marymount University. It should also have noted that his firm, Guerra & Associates, does strategic planning for clients including real estate developer Richard Meruelo, who is a large contributor to the mayoral campaign of Antonio Villaraigosa.
The column began, "Antonio Villaraigosa is charismatic and intelligent. He's won a series of critical endorsements. And recent polls suggest that he's running several points ahead of the wounded incumbent in the race for mayor of Los Angeles."

New York Times, May 9: A picture grouping yesterday with an article about the mayoral election set for tomorrow in Hoboken, N.J., showed Mayor David Roberts and his four challengers. The caption, supplied by editors, described one of them, Carol Marsh, as "the leading contender," though no such characterization appeared in the article. No polls on the contest have been made public, and while numerous political figures depict Ms. Marsh as the mayor's strongest opponent, the "leading" phrase should not have appeared.

Cinco Correcciones

The News-Record (University of Cincinnati), May 9: In the article "Police, UC prepare for Cinco de Mayo" (Monday, May 2), a number of statements warrant correction or clarification. * The article stated Cincinnati Police Officer Tammy Hussels is a lieutenant. She is not. * The article stated landlord Ray Ritchie owns properties on Stratford Avenue. He did in the past, but does not currently. * The article stated Hussels asked landlords, at a neighborhood meeting, to provide police with "tenants' information - including names, hometown addresses and Social Security numbers" to assist with enforcement of possible riotous behavior related to Cinco de Mayo. There is disagreement about what was actually said. Hussels maintains that she only asked for names and local addresses. Other people present at the meeting, including Clifton Heights Business Association president John Schuler and business owners Doug Barclay and Jennifer Helligraph, also have said that only names and local addresses were requested. All four parties said no information was actually given to police. The meeting minutes state that Hussels asked for names and local addresses. There is no mention of hometown addresses or Social Security numbers. * The article stated Ritchie said he complied with the police request for information. Ritchie maintains he had given tenants' names to police for Cinco de Mayo enforcement purposes in 2004, but did not this year. * The article stated Ritchie said previous Cinco de Mayo mischief prompted his installation of security cameras. Ritchie has since said the cameras are for catching criminals."

Is It Our Mistake. It Is.

Gelf Magazine, May 9: When referring to Delio's failure to provide source information, Adam Penenberg said, "It is what it is." An earlier version of the article quoted him as saying the nonsense phrase, "Is it what it is."

What Is Spam, Anyway?

Chicago Tribune, May 4: A story in the Your Money section Sunday incorrectly stated that an e-mail account password is necessary to register with's text messaging service. In fact, a password is optional. In addition, the story should have noted that will only access a contact list with the participant's permission. The article incorrectly characterized as a spam operation.
The original article stated of, "It starts with an e-mail inviting someone to join a text messaging community where they can send free messages, search for friends or find a date. But once you register at, which requires an e-mail address and that account's password, the text-message community latches on to your contact list and sends invitations to all your friends. So now you've spammed all your buddies." It concluded, "Not only do you pay the text-messaging community, but now you're also paying your carrier for mobile-phone spam."

Where Would We Get That Idea?

San Francisco Chronicle, May 7: A statement in "Recipe for Scandal" in Datebook on Wednesday may have created the misperception that Caroline Stuart signed blank James Beard Foundation checks in order to facilitate Len Pickell's use of those checks to reimburse himself for personal expenses. That was not the intention, nor do we have any facts to suggest that it is true.
The original article reported, "Also along were Caroline Stuart, who had pre-signed Pickell's expense checks, and her husband."

Reporters Had to Eat Standing Up

Newsday, May 5: Because of an editing error, a story yesterday incorrectly characterized what happened at an announcement in Bryant Park by Westin Hotels & Resorts launching beds to be sold at Nordstrom's. Breakfast in bed was not served.
The original article reported, "Since Westin started introducing its all-white 'Heavenly Bed' five years ago in its 121 properties worldwide, it has sold 3,000, senior vice president Sue Brush said at an announcement yesterday morning in Manhattan's Bryant Park, where, somewhat incongruously, three sleek, well-made beds were on display. Waiters served bagels and fruit but there was eating breakfast in bed." Seems like an editor cut out the word "no" before "eating," making a humorous line simply implausible.

If I Don't Say So Myself

Boston Globe, May 5: Because of a reporting error, a column in yesterday's City & Region section by Eileen McNamara incorrectly attributed to Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole the quote that Deputy Superintendent Robert E. O'Toole Jr. ''did more good than harm" in his 37-year career. Robert O'Toole said that of himself. Commissioner O'Toole said Robert O'Toole's ''contributions to the Boston Police Department cannot be overstated."

Even Rocker Can Tell the Difference

Newsday, May 3: Long Island Ducks centerfielder Justin Davies is of Thai descent. His ethnic background was incorrect in a story in Thursday's edition.
The original article said Davies was black while quoting him at length about new teammate John Rocker.

Gulliver Would Have Chuckled

Slate, May 3: The original version of this column identified The Swift Report as a conservative blog; it also credulously referred to a letter from the "Coalition for Traditional Values," which was part of The Swift Report's spoof. Slate regrets not getting the joke.
The relevant portion of the column, "Today's Blogs," now reads, "Satire blog The Swift Report 'reports' on the shock some religious conservatives must have felt. It concocts a letter from the 'Coalition for Traditional Values' citing Biblical passages to claim that Laura Bush's jokes undermined the president, both as a husband and as leader of the free world."

Come Sail Our Friendly Seas

Baltimore Sun, May 7: A brief in yesterday's editions on port security, relying on information from the Coast Guard, erroneously reported that entry to U.S. ports would be denied to vessels if they had recently visited any of seven countries. Yesterday, the Coast Guard said that an updated notice lists only five countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania and Nauru. Albania and Madagascar were taken off the list because they reported compliance with the international port security code.

Accuracy Helps Stem Our Circulation Losses

Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones & Co., said total circulation for the six months ended in March declined 0.8% from the year-earlier period. A page-one article yesterday on newspaper circulation incorrectly said total circulation declined 1.5% in the period.

Please, Just Never Write About Us Again

Los Angeles Times, May 6: A headline on an article in Thursday's California section about controversial billboards referred to KCRA-TV Channel 62 as a cable TV station; in fact, it is a broadcast station. A summary of that article contained the same error. An article in the April 27 California section also incorrectly referred to "cable newscasters" at the station.
Los Angeles Times, May 7: A correction in Friday's Section A about a TV station's controversial billboards referred to KRCA-TV Channel 62 as KCRA-TV Channel 62.

But Look for Our Divorce-Lawyer Classifieds on Page D7!

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 8: A story in last Sunday's Image section incorrectly identified Diana Croce of Villanova as the former wife of motivational speaker Pat Croce. The two are married.

Spot an interesting correction on television, in a magazine or newspaper, or on a web news site or blog? Or see something that should have been corrected but wasn't? E-mail Gelf with your find.

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Article by Carl Bialik

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